• Published 20th Jul 2012
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The Conquering of Love - Littlecolt

Twilight finds she and her friends are trapped in their own minds and must escape.

  • ...

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Corruption Ch 6 - Deception

Author's Note:

I would like to throw a special thanks to Bolding this time. He said he would check my new chapter out, leave some comments, and didn't end up getting through it from what I can tell. However, he left a comment that really hit me in a place that is deep and secret. He said, to paraphrase, that my dialogue attribution was bad. This drove me to read stuff online about dialogue attribution, along with other things. The result is that this chapter will hopefully have a lot less boring "He said, She said" stuff that I've gotten into a BAD habit with. Instead of using evil adverbs like "sadly, happily, suspiciously" I am trying to show that the characters feel whatever way they feel rather than just tell you. This is the "show, not tell" philosophy that I had hoped I could find myself following, and I want to follow it honestly. Sorry for the long-winded intro author note, but that is something that I want to do consistently.

I don't usually do the "Listen to this while reading!" thing, but I listened to this a lot while dreaming up this chapter. Really anything involving the shades. You don't have to rock it while reading, I understand. But you know, just wanted to let you in on a bit of what drives my brain.

No, I can't explain WHAT this has to do with anything, but in my brain, it makes a strange sort of sense. :3

Enjoy! Til next chapter!

Book Four: Corruption

Chapter Six - Deception

Twilight stepped toward Linnai, each swing of her legs slightly shaking as she stared out into the dark swamp. Dozens of beady, shining red eyes stared back at her, a cacophony of hissing accompanying them.

“What are those things?” Linnai asked, pressing against the tree she’d been trying to camp out underneath.

Twilight glanced toward her fire. “I don’t know. Maybe they were attracted by my campfire. You’d think we would have seen them before now, just look at how many there are.” She popped a light spell up to the tip of her horn and focused it forward like a flashlight. Hundreds of razor sharp white teeth reflected the light back at her, red dots buried behind them. There was no other distinctive feature to the creatures.

“I can’t be sure, but I think I know these things. A long time ago, I read about faceless creatures called shades,” she said. “According to the Monstrous Manual, they are the spirits of ponies who died with regret and bitterness in their hearts. They wander the night, seeking revenge against those who wronged them.”

Linnai leaned toward Twilight and pressed a hoof against her side, her eyes still wide and aimed toward the ocean of shadowy beings. “Enough with the origin story, do you remember if they had any weaknesses or something?"

Twilight frowned and let out a slight humph. “Sheesh, sorry,” she said. “As far as weaknesses, I don’t remember. I don’t see why they’d have a grudge against us, though, so maybe we’re safe.”

Linnai gulped. “We’re in Nightmare Moon’s dream, and you defeated her before, right?”

Twilight put a hoof behind her head and grinned, her lips slightly shaking and the underside of her eyes twitching a bit. “Ahaha… That is a very good point.”

As if on cue, the hissing in the swamp intensified, the floating eyes lit up more brightly, and multitudes of sharply tipped light red tentacles fired from the shades' mouths at Twilight and Linnai. Twilight stomped her hoof down and her horn glinted, a magical forcefield flashing in front of them just before the tentacles reached their marks. The pointed ends stabbed into the shield, flinging sparks into the air as their lengths writhed violently. Twilight and Linnai both fell back to their haunches and gasped.

“Okay, I guess it’s going to be a problem after all!” Twilight shouted, jumping back up to her hooves and charging her horn with bright purple energy. She pushed her horn through the forcefield and began to fire blasts of magic in rapid succession into the crowd of shades. Each beam struck a shade, blasting them to shadowy bits that hung in the air like black flower petals on the wind. Twilight blinked and grinned. “They’re not so tough, actually! We just have to watch out for those tentacle things!”

After firing a few more blasts, Twilight’s expression changed. The shades began to take the blasts in stride, and although Twilight had thinned out their ranks, they continued to advance, now only being pushed back by each blast rather than being destroyed. The previously exploded shadow debris began to collect together in the air above the mob.

Linnai stood up and shook Twilight with her hooves, raising her voice. “Quit playing around!”

“I’m not!” Twilight shouted back. “We might have to run for it!”

Linnai turned around and looked back into the swamp where they had come from previously. “Run where? Back where we began?”

Twilight began to charge up a massive amount of magic into her horn. “No. I’m going to blast straight down the middle of them and then swing my attack across! Princess Celestia and I did something similar in Fluttershy’s dream! Once a big enough path is cleared, we run for it!”

“Straight through them?!” Linnai asked, continuing to shake Twilight. Movement caught her eye and she looked up. A huge group of shades was diving at them. “Look out! Pull the shield over us!”

Twilight spun around, spotted the shades, and swung her hoof up and forward. Her horn flashed and the shield flew over the the two of them, forming a solid dome. Linnai stepped forward, pushing through the shield and onto the other side of it. Twilight stretched her hoof out toward her, and time seemed to move in slow-motion. “What are you doing!?” she screamed.

A sound like a piece of metal slamming against a rock shot through the air, and a blast of fire and heat blew out from Linnai’s horn in all directions. The shades who had been leaping toward them were caught in the blast, blown to pieces that seemed to float through the air like dark ash. The shield crackled and shook under the pressure.

Linnai turned back toward Twilight and shouted, “Clear the path!” Twilight spun back around, aiming her brightly shining horn toward the crowd of creatures. She let loose with a massive blast of energy. It rocketed through the swamp, blowing shades back into the air, some exploding into smaller shadowy pieces. The cloud of darkness that had been congealing in the air began to swirl and take shape. Four massive, black hooves dropped to the ground, slamming into the swamp and launching water outward.

Twilight stared at the massive creature, but continued her attack. She swung her horn to the left, sweeping across the crowd of smaller beasts, slicing through them like a blade.

The massive shade that had materialized opened its mouth and let out a deafening screech. It raised a hoof into the air and swung it down, smashing into Twilight’s magic beam. A wave of energy shot back up into her horn and her body slammed into the ground as if she’d been stomped by the beast.

As Twilight’s spell continued to pour out from her, the monster leaned its head down and began to suck in the magical energy. It grew in size, pulsing outward at an alarming rate even in the short time it had to feed before Twilight ceased her firing. Twilight turned her head to Linnai, her eyes wide and frightened. “They’re adapting! That’s what I’d forgotten! The shades can collectively learn to overcome obstacles if they’re in a large enough group! In a matter of seconds, they learned that attack spell and even absorbed it!” she shouted. “I’ll have to switch it up! I know your jewel is gone, but can you do anything?”

Linnai lowered her head and narrowed her eyes as she weighed her options. It’s not that I can’t, it’s that I shouldn’t! I’m so hungry... If these damned things don’t kill me, I might just end up killing myself. She gazed back into Twilight’s eyes, which were intensely wide. Do I bet everything on this so-called magical genius? Even if I somehow trick her into feeding me, it’ll be a light snack at best… what a terrible situation.

You always were bad at playing the long game, Mulcibar’s voice shot through her mind. Linnai frowned and nodded her head up at Twilight. I don’t like this plan, but…

“Yes, but things are going to get a little heated. You ready?”

Twilight nodded and reached her hoof down toward Linnai, who reluctantly grabbed ahold of it and pulled herself up.

“Alright, what’s the plan? A two-pronged attack? I can start using elemental magic, they haven’t adapted to that yet,” Twilight said. The massive shade, along with many smaller ones, were charging toward them now. They had seconds to react.

“Drop the shield!” Linnai shouted.

Twilight shook her head back and forth rapidly and stared at the changeling. “You sure about that?”

“Yeah, I’ve got this!” Linnai replied, spreading her wings out fully, the flamelike orange pattern across them lighting up with crackling, sparkling magic. “You might want to step back a bit.” Twilight gasped at the display, took two steps, and then felt herself blown backward slightly as a wave of intense heat washed over her.

Linnai leaned forward, bringing her head close to the ground and digging her back feet into the dirt as hard as she could.

“Adapt to this!” she screamed. Her wings erupted with a massive frontal cone of fire. The tree that she and Twilight were still standing near burst into flames. The monstrous shade ignited, its body exploding into smaller and smaller shades as the flames washed over it. The screeching sound of the monsters being torched echoed across the wilderness. Twilight opened her eyes slightly, shielding them with her hooves. Through the blazing inferno, she could see the bodies of shades bubbling and evaporating from the heat. Every tree for many yards had caught on fire, lighting up the swamp as if it were daytime.

After a sustained blast lasting a mere ten seconds, Linnai’s wings made a puffing sound and the flames ceased firing from them. What was left in front of the two of them was a field of carnage and destruction. No movement could be seen other than the constant waving light of the forest fire that had now been brought about.

Twilight stood up and returned to Linnai’s side, her jaw gaped open. “I thought we should attack together,” she finally managed to say. “This seems a little… excessive.”

“Excessive? Please! They’re dead, aren’t they?” Linnai replied. “And look, my fire’s finally lit!” She smiled widely and pointed a hoof over to her little pile of sticks, which was nearly all burned through, but the tree above it was burning nicely. Clearly pleased with herself, her hoof shook with perhaps a little too much excitement.

Twilight started to laugh, but then stopped herself, clearing her throat and trying to stay serious. “Well, I suppose that’s one way of doing it. I’m just worried that the fire is like a big signal to Nightmare Moon. She could come attack us at any moment. We should probably move on and find some other spot to camp out - somewhere we can fortify a better defense against those shades.”

Linnai walked over to the rocky outcropping where Twilight’s campfire still burned. She collapsed as she reached it and looked up at Twilight. “That’s… not going to be an option for me. I need to rest, and you look drained as well. Besides, without my input, the fire won’t spread much farther. The swamp is really wet.” She lazily waved a hoof in the air and then closed her eyes.

Twilight walked over to the changeling and took a seat by her side. “Okay. I guess that’s a reasonable assumption. All the same, we shouldn’t stay here long.” She closed her eyes as well and felt herself drifting off almost immediately, her proximity to Linnai not making her nearly as uncomfortable as before. Darkness washed over her mind as she slipped away into unconsciousness.

Twilight drowsily awoke to the feeling of a hoof gently shaking her. As soon as she realized she’d been asleep, she jolted to her hooves and took several quick steps backwards. Shoot! she thought. How long was I out? She blinked her eyes and looked toward the campfire, which had died down quite a bit. Standing beside it was someone she was overjoyed to see.

“Princess Celestia!” she shouted, practically leaping toward the princess and wrapping her hooves around her neck. “Thank goodness.”

Celestia chuckled and gently rubbed her hoof against Twilight’s head. “Indeed, it is good to see you. I’m so glad I found you first, Twilight.”

Twilight gazed up at her mentor’s face, practically beaming. “Me, too. How did you find us, though?”

Celestia shook her head and smirked. “It was sort of hard to miss that big forest fire,” she said. “What happened here?”

“We were attacked by shades, or something like them. I don’t know if it was the best solution, but Linnai used some sort of strange fire magic that came from her wings. She beat a massive number of them in one fell swoop even when I had trouble with them.” She pulled away from Celestia as she spoke and looked around for Linnai, her voice lowering to a whisper. “We can’t underestimate her, princess. She may not have beaten us before, but she’s more powerful than I’d initially thought.”

Celestia nodded. “I could have told you that. I felt her fire magic firsthand.”

Twilight continued to look around for Linnai, now taking a few steps around the campfire. “Where is she? She was here when I fell asleep.”

“I don’t know,” Celestia said. “It was only you here when I arrived. Perhaps she left?”

Twilight turned back toward the princess, her lips becoming straight and rigid. Something is wrong here. It’s too convenient. She eyed the princess up and down and shook her head. I can’t be certain yet. Linnai very well could have left, but…

“No. I really doubt it,” Twilight said. “She’d been following alongside me this whole time. She never flew, never tried anything tricky, and never even used magic at all until she had to. Something was off about her, I’m certain; I just can’t put my hoof on it.”

“Well, there’s no point in wondering. We’ll see her again, that I am sure of,” Celestia responded, shrugging. She sat down in front of the small fire and raised her hooves up to it. Twilight nodded her head and sat down next to Celestia.

“Have you seen or heard from any of the others?” Twilight asked. Celestia simply shook her head. “What about Discord, then? Are you two still mentally linked?”

Celestia seemed to pause in thought for a moment, but then shook her head again. “I’m sure they’re all fine. I know you’re worried, but we have to go one step at a time.”

She dodged the question. Is this really the princess?

Twilight faked a slight chuckle. “You’re right. Sorry. I just can’t help worry for them. Even for Linnai…” she said, her voice lowering. “That’s weird, I know. She came into these dreams to defeat us, to force us back into our own dreams, and yet… I can’t help but worry about her. She seemed so hopeless, trying to light a fire without magic, her body wet and cold. Somewhere deep down inside, I wanted to help her. I had to force myself not to. It felt… awful.”

Celestia’s eyes shook slightly and she cleared her throat. “Well, I… I don’t know. Perhaps she didn’t want your help, either.”

Twilight sighed and lowered her gaze. “Maybe. I’m just not used to that, though… It’s silly, but for a fleeting moment, I thought maybe if I showed her compassion, she’d somehow learn to be compassionate. I mean, I didn’t know anything about friendship before coming to Ponyville. I didn’t understand just how important it was. Now I can’t even imagine myself without my friends.” She looked back up at Celestia, who was returning the gaze with an ice cold expression.

“It is silly. You don’t understand changelings, Twilight. You think they can just learn something like that?”

“Well, why not?” Twilight asked. “Princess Luna said that she had once tried to stand by the changelings. I don’t know what that was about, but she must have seen something in them, right?”

Celestia shook her head. “I’m sorry, I just don’t know. Perhaps she believed the same nonsense,” she replied flatly.

Twilight lowered her gaze again. “Nonsense? I don’t know. Do you remember the changeling we met in Fluttershy’s dream? The one who had taken the form of Applejack.”

“What about it?”

“She warned us about The Order of Ismara. At the time, it seemed like boasting, or a threat of some sort, but what if she really was warning us?” Twilight asked, putting a hoof against her chin. “In fact, a similar thing happened in my dream. It was another changeling who looked like Applejack. She seemed so sad from seeing our friends’ bodies, even though they weren’t real. After seeing Rainbow Dash die in Fluttershy’s dream, I understand that all too well.”

“What are you getting at?” Celestia asked, her voice becoming annoyed sounding.

“What if it’s not just nonsense? What if they really can learn to be like us?”

Celestia stood up and snorted. “What good would that do?” she snapped. “What’s the point of friendship for a changeling, anyway?”

“Princess?” Twilight asked, staring wide-eyed at Celestia.

“Friendship! Love! Such fleeting, absurd concepts!” Celestia yelled, her voice wavering.

Twilight stood up in one quick motion, her eyes starting to well up with tears and her teeth now bared. She knew the princess would never say such things. The true identity of the pony who stood before her was now glaringly obvious. “You!” she shouted toward the princess. “How dare you!”

Celestia stood up and pointed a hoof right at Twilight’s face. “Oh, please! You should have seen this coming, you blind fool!” She swung the hoof outward.

Twilight’s body shook with anger and she growled through her teeth. “I did see it coming! I just had to be certain! Change out of her form immediately!”

Celestia’s body flashed with green magic, and a second later, Linnai was standing in her place, a faint pink aura surrounding her. “Fine! But you listen up, Twilight Sparkle, and you listen well! You can’t possibly understand what it’s like, so give up trying! You make me sick! Sitting here practically lecturing me! When did you figure it out, hmm? Were you really talking to your precious princess, or were you just trying to teach me about the magic of friendship? Bah! You want to know what a changeling calls friendship? Breakfast!”

Twilight’s lower lip trembled as she stared into the changeling’s eyes. She took a deep breath and calmed her expression, pushing her feelings to the back of her mind. “So what now?” she asked. “You fed on me. You got your energy back. Can you fly now? How about you just buzz off!”

“If I feel like it, sure!” Linnai responded. “But for now, I’m gonna get in the rest of my nap, and for what it’s worth, I suggest you do the same.”

Twilight let out an exasperated groan and walked around to the other side of the fire, falling roughly to a sitting position. She levitated some more bits of wood into it and stoked it slightly with her magic, trying to get it to flare up again, and then laid down and closed her eyes tightly.

On the other side of the flames, Linnai did the same. You're right, brother, she thought. I'm no good at the long game.

Celestia dove down past the fertile farmland of the Unicorn Range and into the forested foothills of the mountains, landing upon the soft, grassy ground. Scootaloo leapt off of the princess’ back and took a few steps, looking around nervously.

“Where are we?” Scootaloo asked. “I’ve never been to this place before.”

Celestia smiled and softly patted the filly on the head. “Don’t worry. This is one of the most serene places in Equestria. It is truly beautiful in the fall, a full spectrum of color. There are many kinds of trees, as well as animals that live in and around them. When I was little, this was one of my favorite places to go.” She smiled down at Scootaloo, who looked up at her, an eyebrow raised.

“You were little?”

Celestia laughed. “Of course I was. Everypony was little at some point!” She stepped further into the woods, gazing through the canopy toward the towering rocks above. “These mountains have many paths and tunnels through them. Princess Luna and I used to love to come here and play. There are so many hiding places, it made for great games of hide and seek.”

Scootaloo beamed up toward the mountains. “Wow… I want to come here with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle someday. I bet they’d love it!”

Celestia nodded. “You’ll have to let me know when you come out here. I could show you so many great things,” she responded. “For now, though, I’ve brought us here for a less fun purpose. We can go up to the mountainous peaks and get a good view of the surrounding area, and we can use the hiding places that I know of as cover if needed. In a way, this is my ideal safe house.”

Scootaloo nodded her head and strengthened her resolve, putting the thoughts of playing with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle aside. “Right. For now, we need to actually find everypony.”

“Precisely, but we need to stay low key if at all possible, so we should stick to the forest rather than flying over it,” she said, waving her hoof forward. “Come along, now. We have a ways to go.”

As the two of them walked, Scootaloo’s mind wandered. She glanced up at the princess and smiled. “What was it like back then? You know, when you and Princess Luna were just kids.”

Celestia gazed up into the sky through the leaves of the forest. “This area was still beautiful, but I suppose it’s not exactly correct to say that it was always a safe place. We took a lot of risks back then, even just going out and playing.”

“What kind of risks?” Scootaloo questioned. “Were there monsters or something?” She grimaced and glanced around, noticing strange shadows that the moonlight was casting down into the woods.

“Not exactly,” Celestia continued. “You see, Luna and I were born during the Age of Discord. Back then, Equestria wasn’t nearly the happy place it is today. We were fortunate enough to be born here in the north since Discord made his home in the far south, but every day was still a hazard. Anything could happen at any time, and I do mean anything.”

“Wow. That doesn’t sound very fun.”

Celestia grinned. “That didn’t stop the two of us from endeavoring to have fun, anyway. It wasn’t until we got our cutie marks that we saw what our destinies truly were, so back then we were just a couple of kids trying to have a good time.”

“Wow, I never even thought about that before,” Scootaloo said, scratching her head. “I mean, your special talents are so amazing. You raise and lower the sun and moon. How did you two get your cutie marks, anyway? Oh my gosh, what if my talent is something crazy like that, too? I bet the Cutie Mark Crusaders couldn’t find out for years and years!” Her face had gradually turned to panic as she spoke.

Celestia shook her head and smiled down at Scootaloo. “Don’t worry, my little pony. I’m sure your special talent is something much more down to earth,” she said with a grin. “As for our cutie marks, remarkably we both got them on the same day. It’s a lot less impressive of a story than you might think!”

“Really? I don’t see how it could be that unimpressive,” Scootaloo said with disbelief.

“It’s true!” Celestia assured her. “We lived in the city that’s known today as Canterlot. However, back then it was called the City of Unicornia. Those old stories about the founding of Equestria definitely have some truth to them. While the nation was named Equestria, the Pegasi founded the city of Pegasopolis, which is now Cloudsdale, and the Earth Ponies settled along the north side of these mountains in the fertile Unicorn Range, which back then was just called Earth. That was a bit confusing, I must admit, considering we also call our world Earth, but it’s definitely better than ‘Dirtville’.” She chuckled slightly.

“Oh yeah, and there was no Ponyville yet, was there?” Scootaloo asked.

“Not yet. It wouldn’t be founded until hundreds of years later. There was also an empire to the north, but it has long since vanished. There were also the mysterious ruins to the south in the Everfree Forest where almost nopony dared to tread.” Celestia explained. “Getting back to the story, Unicornia had been a glorious city before, but had been run down during Discord’s reign. The Unicorns had once proudly raised and lowered the sun and moon, but were no longer able to grasp that power. Discord’s hold on the sun and moon was absolute, and he raised and lowered them at his whim. It caused a lot of problems. He left the sun up long enough for the Earth Ponies to grow enough food to sustain the three cities, but it was just barely enough. He certainly knew exactly what he was doing… We were all slaves to his whim, and nopony dared to anger him.”

“That sounds terrible,” Scootaloo said.

“It was. Even as a foal, it would drive me crazy. One sunny day, Luna and I were out playing, the worries of the adult world not even entering into our minds, when the sun abruptly left the sky, replaced by the moon. I was upset greatly by this. I didn’t want to be stuck in the dark. I glared up at the sky and shouted ‘I want the sun to come back up!’ and to my surprise, it did,” she said with a chuckle. “Luna was very impressed and cheered me on. Our father, who had been watching us, wasn’t so amused, though...”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Scootaloo interrupted. “You had a father?” She stared up at the princess, her mouth hanging open.

Celestia couldn’t help but laugh, stopping for a moment to compose herself. “Of course I did, silly! Everypony has a mother and a father!” she said, shaking her head. “My father noticed that my cutie mark had appeared. He saw it was the shape of the sun, and immediately grabbed ahold of me, looking up the sky in fear. You see, he was afraid that Discord would come after me. He told me that I must never raise or lower the sun, or else Discord would come and take me away. Luna was very upset by this. She began to cry and looked up into the sky. She shouted the same as I had, ‘The moon should come back, then! I don’t want Celly to go away!’ Much to our surprise, that is precisely what happened. The sun sank to the horizon and the beautiful, full moon arose. When her cutie mark appeared, my father fell to the ground in tears, hugging us both tightly. ‘You must never, ever tell anypony what you two can do,’ he said. “You two are so special, but you have to keep your talents a secret!’ He feared for us both. Looking back now, I realize that from that day forward, our parents were living life day to day, protecting us and making sure that we weren’t using our powers. It was very difficult for them.”

Scootaloo smiled and wiped a tear from her eye. “That was actually a really good story. I wish my dad cared like that.”

“Scootaloo, your dad cares a lot, and not just about you. He cares about everypony.”

Scootaloo sighed. “I know, I know,” she mumbled. “I guess he’s just too busy caring about Cloudsdale to care about being a dad.” She sighed and continued to trod along beside the princess..

If only I could tell you everything, Celestia thought to herself. If only you could see just how vigilantly he’s watching over you, over everypony, even now.

“Not all parents show their love in the same way,” Celestia said calmingly. “Someday, you’ll understand just how much your dad loves you. Trust me, little one.” Scootaloo managed to smile and nod her head.

What a touching moment, Discord’s voice suddenly buzzed in Celestia’s mind. I’m not sure you represented me very well in that story of yours, though! I just wanted to have fun, too!

Discord! Celestia practically shouted in her mind, a slight headache suddenly forming between her eyes. Where have you been? I’ve been trying to contact you for hours!

Sorry, sorry! I’ve been a little busy with your sister and another one of your tiny subjects, he responded. We’re all fine, but I don’t know for how long. There are strange creatures about, and something rather explosive is happening in Las Pegasus.

I saw something, too. In Cloudsdale. A faceless white creature with a mouth full of jagged teeth, the princess thought.

Oh, good! At least we saw the same kind of freakish thing. I nearly jumped out of my skin with fright! Discord said, his voice cracking slightly. Anyway, I think you’d better get over here. There’s some powerful magic hanging in the air. I don’t want to panic you, but I can feel a dark shadow falling over that city. If anypony from our intrepid party is in there, they’re in trouble.

Celestia leaned toward the ground and placed a hoof against Scootaloo, halting her. “Hop on my back, Scootaloo. We need to get moving faster.”

“What happened to staying low-key?” Scootaloo asked, climbing up onto the princess’ back.

“Things have changed. Hold on tight, I’m going to be going upward quickly.”

Scootaloo wrapped her forelegs around Celestia’s neck, and the alicorn took off into the sky, blasting out from the canopy and up towards the peak of a tall mountain. After a minute of flight, they reached the summit. In comparison to the spring-like weather below, the top of the mountain was cold and covered in snow. Celestia set down upon a rocky outcropping and gazed toward the southwest. She squinted her eyes, but couldn’t make out anything.

Suddenly, a distant beam of pink energy fired into the sky. It was so faint due to how far away it was, she barely saw it, but a second later she felt a wave of magic wash over the landscape. Her eyes went wide at the sheer power of the energy. That can’t be right! What on earth is happening?

Beats me! You should be over here next to it! It’s hard to breathe! Discord’s voice responded.

A moment later, a flash lit up the night sky from the east, and then another sustained blast of magic came from the southeast. Celestia turned her head, staring at what looked like a massive forest fire in the swamps of the southeast, so distant it was hard to make out.

There are battles happening everywhere! Celestia thought. Nightmare Moon will surely head to one of them!

Well hurry up and decide! Discord’s voice called out in a panic. But for what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s much hope over here. Las Pegasus is absolutely overrun by those creatures, and more are swarming in from the east! This doesn’t look good!

What do I do? Celestia thought. Do I go help Discord and my sister? Or do I go investigate what’s happening in the east?

Atop the tallest lookout tower of Canterlot, Nightmare Moon stood and surveyed the landscape. Gazing through a powerful telescope, she caught sight of a flash from the southwest. She pointed the lens directly toward it and adjusted the focus, bringing the distant city of Las Pegasus into view. Even with this instrument, it was difficult to make out what was happening, but stray blasts of magic were firing off from the city.

Well, looks like somepony found something fun to do.

She pulled her eyes away from the lens and glanced to the east. They went flying in all directions, so there’s no telling who’s over there. The magic looked powerful, so it would have to be Dear Sister, Luna, or Twilight. As she was thinking this, another explosion caught her eye, and then a third from the south, followed by a forest fire sparking up. She grabbed the telescope again, aiming it toward the southern swamp.

Fools, you’ve practically told me where you all are, she thought with a sigh, and then turned her head back westward.

“The forest fire can wait, as can the unfocused magic blast to the east,” she said aloud. “Time to pay a visit to Las Pegasus.”

She leapt into the air, spreading her wings and swooping towards the mountains of the Unicorn Range. As she shot through the sky, she saw a familiar figure standing atop one of the peaks. She licked her lips and grinned. “Slight pitstop, first.”

Princess Celestia stood in thought, staring towards Las Pegasus. “We have to head west, Scootaloo. We’ll be going fast again, so hold on.”

Scootaloo tapped her hoof against Celestia’s head and her body began to shake. “Behind us!” she shouted, catching sight of Nightmare Moon diving toward them. Celestia turned and saw the dark alicorn, her horn glowing as she fired a blast of magic toward them. She was just quick enough to leap into the air, narrowly escaping the beam of energy. It struck the mountaintop where they’d been standing, upheaving rocks and snow and sending them flying in all directions.

“Sissie, dearest! I’ve come to play!” Nightmare Moon shouted. “It’ll be just like old times! Let’s play hide and seek!” She swung up towards Celestia, who spread her wings and dashed away as fast as she could, taking a sudden dip down towards a valley to the west.

“Hold on tightly, Scootaloo! We can’t afford to fight her, we have to escape!”

Scootaloo tightened her jaw, clenched her eyes shut, squeezed the princess’ neck harder, and silently nodded her head.

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